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Self Portrait: 1536

Author: Rodolfo Antonio Salido Benítez

Class: History of Art and Technology

Completion Date: Monday, February 16, 2015 (Revised October 2018)

Software: Photoshop, Excel, Excel VBA.

Place of Creation: Assay development and screening lab at biomedical research institute. (Calibr)


Style: Pixel Art. Pointilism


Techniques: Image processing, automated liquid handling, scripting.


Materials: Food colorant, 1536 white tissue culture microtiter plates, and solenoid valve liquid handling device.


Link to documentation of piece: Self Portrait: 1536


My midterm project aimed to repurpose the devices and medium used in drug discovery to recreate a self portrait in an effort to blur the lines between instruments and materials used for science and those used for art. I work with liquid handling devices in a daily basis and have a thorough understanding of they practical capabilities; thus, I knew I could paint an image in micro plates ordinarily used for drug screening. After careful consideration regarding the subject of this project, I decided on painting a self portrait.

The process behind dispensing an image of my face into micro plates required me to strip down a photo of what I consider to be the closest visual representation of my identity: my face. As I progressed through the steps behind constructing the self portrait, I saw how my face deteriorated. First I saw how some of my detailed features disappeared due to the image compression needed for pixel art. Then I saw my face deconstructed into individual segments of 48x32 pixels and I started to stop recognizing myself after I couldn’t see my facial features. However, translating and filtering colors into computable numbers needed to instruct the liquid handling device was the step that completely alienated me from my own face. I knew this was going to be a step yet seeing the arranged numbers and not being able to identify myself in them felt uneasy.

I wanted to draw attention to the process behind creating the self portrait because there’s many parallels that can be drawn between said process and drug discovery. Screening for a potential drug treatment for a specific disease forces researchers to strip down the individual into some of its basic components. Drug screening is done both at the cellular and biochemical level with complex pathologies abstracted and researched at the level of individual pathways. Data interpretation becomes statistical evaluations of numbers that a micro plate reader returns which reflect the activity of the whole cell or biochemical based assay. Superficially, one only sees organized numbers, similar to the process behind the self portrait, and only when one analyses the data and places it within a “big picture” context one is able to understand its meaning or purpose, just like how stepping back from this portrait aids in better recognizing the it. 

In the google drive folder I included files documenting the process behind building my self portrait. These are just a few sample images.

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